The urban cableway “Elka” in the Polish city of Katowice is designed as a combined cableway. Photo: DOPPELMAYR
Urban cableways are especially well-suited for certain uses in densely developed areas where they can contribute to substantial improvement of local public transport (incl. Park&Ride).
After all, they also offer indirect benefits for the entire system, such as future orientation towards an innovative transport system, image improvement and a building block of a post-fossil mobility.
Bridging & opening up areas
Urban cableways – like other means of transport – have their specific advantages for certain network applications. They enable development of new locations with difficult topography (surmounting obstacles, heights etc.) because their maximum longitudinal incline as a function of the size of their cabins can equal a multiple of that of earthbound means of transport.
They have a connecting function, providing either point-to-point connection or linking several locations along a single line; thanks to the continuous flow of passengers, urban cableways can be well combined with Park&Ride facilities (e.g.: the People Mover connects the Vaporetto Station with the largest car park facility in Venice), or they can help close gaps in the public transport network or function as feeder lines. Urban cableways can also directly improve local public transport by extending or completing the existing network, acting as a substitute, or providing an intermodal link.
With urban cableways, it is easier to overcome spatial challenges and to develop areas outside the reach of individual motorized transport.
he cable car to the Hungerburg in Innsbruck serves tourist purposes and the city’s public transport tariffs do not apply to it. Photo: AXESS
They offer an enjoyable travel experience, have lower impact on their surroundings than street traffic, require minimal space, and their dividing effect is small compared to other means of transport. To be accepted as part of the transport system, these benefits of urban cableways, as well as their suitability for every-day use, must be demonstrated and properly conveyed to the public.
As most European cities have a functioning public transport system, it is of key importance that urban cableways are integrated (including tariff integration) in the public transport system (the relevant public transport company etc.) as they already have been in Switzerland or South Tyrol.
During this process, special attention must be paid to connection points. Subsequent integration or construction of a cableway or replacement of an existing bus or tramway line is always more difficult than their integration into a newly developed urban area or extension of the network with new infrastructure. In selecting the means of transport, the organization of the given municipality’s public transport system plays a key role.
Where local public transport is structured as a system competing with various other operators, networks and systems, urban cableways in particular can be an attractive, innovative and economically advantageous addition. But examples where urban cableways are used for purely tourist purposes exist as well; for example, the cable car in Innsbruck which runs, parallel to a public bus line, to castle Hungerburg serves a purely tourist purpose and, as a result, public transport tariffs do not apply.
Higher safety and availability
From an operator’s prospective, cableways are technically mature, tested and proven systems with high availability and even higher safety guaranteed by the fact that they run along their own independent route. They require relatively low investment and offer high reliability.
They are not prone to malfunctions and thus have minimum downtimes. Daily, monthly or even annual mandatory testing, inspections and maintenance works can be performed within short service windows during night hours. Thanks to their continual operation, cableways deliver high performance; if lower than that of rail-bound transport. To correctly evaluate the performance criterion, the location to be opened-up with the cableway and the nature of the space must be taken into account: is the given area located on a settlement’s periphery or its center?
Is the cableway to serve as a replacement or will it represent an upgrade to an existing traffic axis? Cableway stations are drivers of costs but the cableways as such have lower costs. As transfer hubs, the stations must always meet all technical, organizational and economic framework requirements and should therefore function as intermodal centers within the public local transport network.
Fair comparison of the systems
The Austrian Society for Traffic and Transport Science ÖVG emphasizes that a fair comparison of the different systems with regard to construction costs and operation costs, including their environmental impact, must be carried out as part of any assessment of urban cableways.
To this purpose, criteria for the measuring of the advantages and disadvantages of urban cableways must be developed and made indisputable. Subsequently, target fulfillment under these criteria will need to be assessed in relation to the given project. ts
ÖVG – work group “Urban Cableways”
The Austrian Society for Traffic and Transport Science is an independent association of well-known individuals from the fields of science and economy that focuses on all aspects of passenger and freight transport and logistics. In particular, it serves as an intermediary and a forum for on-going dialogue between research and practice.